Visalia restaurant makes Fortune Magazine list by keeping a simple menu and single mission to serve locally sourced, affordable food
By Reggie Ellis
VISALIA – Simple ideas always seem to be the best. And the best idea people are rarely simple. If you don’t think that’s true, just look at one of the smallest restaurants in town. Folded in between the historic Fox Theatre and its corporate office, Quesadilla Gorilla opened its doors in October 2013 with a single dish menu and single-minded focus of serving locally-sourced food that is delicious and affordable.
Co-founders Miguel Reyes and Mikayla Reyes both grew up in homes where food is the main source of bringing family and friends together and they wanted to open a small place where rubbing shoulders with your neighbor makes you feel like you’re home again. They also wanted to keep the menu simple and decided to specialize in the comfort food they grew up craving: quesadillas.
“We originally were going to operate it as a pizza by slice kind of place but then we thought, ‘you can get that on any corner’”, Miguel said. “Everyone has had a quesadilla in their life, but most places treat it as something for picky eaters or kids who want something bland. We wanted to make it our niche and allow the customer to pick their own ingredients.”
From their tiny spot on Main Street in downtown Visalia, the husband and wife duo were able to launch a food truck operation in 2015 and open a successful second location in Fresno in March 2017. And earlier this month, they found out they were one of the fastest growing companies in America!
On Nov. 13, the Reyeses flew out to Boston to accept their award as No. 3 on Fortune Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Fastest Growing Inner City Businesses in the Country. The ranking was based on the restaurant’s five-year growth rate of 995.1% with 2018 revenues topping $1.4 million. The list defined inner cities as areas with a population of more than 75,000 people with concentrated levels of poverty, based on the definition by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC). The organization relies on a national network of nominating partners, including city offices, economic development organizations, and small business development corporations, to find many of the businesses that appear on this list.
Fortune wrote the following about the Visalia company:
“Quesadilla Gorilla specializes in a wide and unique variety of the comfort food we all grew up with the company’s goal is to keep the menu simple, fresh, affordable and, of course, delicious. Located in the heart of downtown Visalia, California, the restaurant’s customers come from all walks of life. Quesadilla Gorilla’s culture revolves around its employees, who they recognize as being their number one asset. The business takes care of its employees so that, in turn, they take care of the customers.”
The owners announced the honor on their social media with the following post saying they were “honored, humbled, and awestruck.”
“We wouldn’t be anywhere without the support of our community, our incredible staff who puts in the hard work every single day, and *obviously* by the good, sweet Lord … This is rad, and also so unbelievable.”
Miguel credited most of the growth in the last five years to his employees. He and Mikayla began investing more time into training employees in both the kitchen and customer service. The husband and wife owners go out of their way to make sure employees feel appreciated, both in person and in their pocketbook. Miguel said they have made a commitment to paying higher than minimum wages to their employees and are considering a profit sharing system with employees who want to invest.
“They are the face of our company and the ones who have built relationships with the customers,” Miguel said. “You have to know your why, why you do what you do. For us, it’s all about relationships and sharing those relationships around food.”
Quesadilla Gorilla continues to stay true to its simple mission by sourcing only the best ingredients, based in the heart of California, and making sure that everything that comes from their kitchen to your plate, is made as if they were making it for our own family.
“It’s really cool to see what this small shop has turned into,” Miguel said. “I never dreamed it would be what it is now. This is the beginning of what the future holds for us.”
Quesadilla Gorilla is located at 302 W. Main St. in Visalia and 608 E. Weldon Ave. in Fresno. For more information on their hours, menu or food truck, call 559-636-6375, 559-412-7468 or visit quesadillagorilla.com.